Imperious Nadal downs Federer in windy Paris

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Imperious Nadal downs Federer in windy Paris

Rafael Nadal made quick work of Roger Federer in their first French Open meeting since 2011, beating his rival 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in strong wind to reach his 12th final at Roland Garros. Nadal has never lost a semifinal at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament. Never lost a final, either. And he's never lost to Federer in Paris, improving to 6-0. Overall, Nadal leads their series 24-15. Federer had won their past five meetings, but those were all on hard courts. It's a whole different task to take on Nadal on clay, in general, and at the French Open, in particular, where he's one victory from a 12th championship. That total would be more than any man or woman has won at any of the Grand Slam tournaments. In Sunday's final, the No. 2-seeded Nadal will take on No. 1 Novak Djokovic or No. 4 Dominic Thiem. This was the first time since 2011 the four top-seeded men were in the semifinals at Roland Garros. Like so many times before, Nadal's topspin-heavy lefty forehand, relentless ball chasing and return game gave Federer fits. The generally stoic Federer was so frustrated that he smacked a tennis ball toward the stands after getting broken to trail 2-1 in the third set. It was soon over. Federer, who was playing at Roland Garros for the first time since 2015, hadn't lost a set through five victories over the past two weeks. With an aggressive, head-to-the-net style, he had been broken only four times total by those opponents. Nadal easily exceeded that in a span of three sets across less than two-plus hours, winning six of 13 return games. The 37-year-old Federer, whose 20 Grand Slam titles are a record for a man, was serenaded off the court by spectators' chants of his first name. He raised his right arm for a quick wave as he walked away — perhaps for the final time. He missed the tournament in 2016 with a bad back, then skipped it the next two years to prepare for grass and hard courts. He looked quite good in his return until running into his old nemesis.